Computer Ethics Essay, Research Paper
Computer Ethics by Tom Forester and Perry Morrison is a very interesting book about social problems and ethical dilemmas created by computers. Computer crime may include something as innocent as copying software to using a computer to electronically steal money. The invasion of privacy is also a major issue that raises social problems and ethical decisions. Also, artificial intelligence (AI) raises one of the biggest ethical dilemmas ever. Each of these issues and dilemmas produce one major question to the information technology industry according to the authors of this book.
“The central question facing the IT industry is how to reward innovation without stifling creativity, but there is no obvious answer to this conundrum and no consensus as to what constitutes ethical practice.”(1)
This reader believes Computer Ethics covers all aspects of computer ethics and provides enough for one to understand the crisis the information technology is in today. The use of real life events and examples help to show the that law is too sparse today and some guidelines must be drawn up to avoid crime caused with computers in the future.
Computer crime is a very broad title for such a large group of dissimilar crimes. The only factor, which groups all of these crimes together is that they all involve the use of a computer. Computer Ethics includes a chapter dedicated to computer crimes and how broad the law is when it comes to computer crimes. This chapter defines computer crime and gives some real life examples of the computer crime that has gone on in the past. One of the largest computer crimes ever discovered is covered in the computer crime chapter. It occurred from 1965 to 1971 and involved an insurance company called Equity Funding Inc. Over this time, Equity Funding Inc. used computers to generate thousands of fake policies that were sold to reinsurance companies for a total of over $27 million. The emergence and dependance upon computers in today’s society has resulted in more computer crime than ever. “Computers have created opportunities for crime that never existed before.”(2) For the case back from 1965 – 1971, there was no clear law or punishment for computer crimes and even today the law is uncertain. Most of the cases of computer crime are never even brought to court and those that do rarely get convicted. However, because of the rapid growth of the industry, it is impossible to keep the law up to date with the technology.
The invasion of privacy is also a major issue that raises social problems and ethical decisions. There are several ways that computers can be used to invade privacy as outlined in the “Invasion of Privacy” chapter in Computer Ethics. Invasion of privacy can range from someone reading other’s email to someone stealing another’s identity either for personal use or to sell on the black market. One such case occurred in June of 1991. Robert J. Corbey had applied for a $2000 loan, a loan that he would have had no problem to get because of his good credit history. However, the lender refused the loan due to unpaid mortgage bill on two houses, which showed up on his credit history. What had happened was that the database used had Corbey confused with another person with the same name. It took Corbey over eight months to clear up the confusion.(3) This situation just shows how a small computer error can cause so much trouble. This chapter also talks about credit doctors. Credit doctors are people who steal good credit histories and sell them to people with bad or no credit. This is possible because of the computer industry and its unethical capabilities. Another good example of invasion of privacy is the NSA (National Security Agency) in the United States. It states that the NSA has the capability to intercept and analyse 70% of all telephone, telex, data, and radio transmissions. If you think about it, no one has much privacy anymore. “Big Brother” is watching everyone and the technology is still developing. There must be something done to control this invasion of ones most personal and private matters that may be listened and watched upon.
Artificial Intelligence raises one the largest ethical dilemmas ever. Should the human race allow the development of such a technology that takes meaning and goals away from the prominate race on our planet? How about giving a machine with AI the power to administer medicine or perform surgery? These issues have too many ethical dilemmas to discuss them all. With all of the ethical dilemmas, the legal factor of all of this has to be included. A good example of this is included in Computer Ethics. A Nevada women underwent a routine surgery that was a success. After the surgery, a computerized dispenser instructed hospital staff to administer 500 mg of painkiller, which was too much, because the poor women died after being in a coma for five days.(4) Now who is liable in a court of law? But computers are continued to be used in these situations and mistakes are continued to be made. How about those, who program these extremely important machines? Should they not be liable? These are just some of the ethical dilemmas that occur. Another aspect of AI explained in the book is the aspect of jobs and human condition as a species. “Quite apart from its consequences for employment, there is also an argument that AI is demeaning to human beings because it degrades the human condition.”(5) This point shows that not only does AI take away jobs, but it also degrades humans. Maybe AI will take over humans and become a manmade species. We could all be slaves to computers in the future. All of these social problems and ethical dilemmas are important issues that must be resolved without destroying the innovation process or the human race.
Ultimately, Computer Ethics by Tom Forester and Perry Morrison is a complete and detailed collection of real life situations that raise social problems and ethical dilemmas. The law must find a way to keep up with the technology. There must be a way to control computer crime and the invasion of privacy and come to a consensus on the use of artificial intelligence and the use of it in the future. “Theft is fraud and fraud is fraud and both are generally accepted by our society to be morally wrong.”(6) If it is morally or ethically wrong then obviously computer crime must be dealt with the same as any other crime. That is with strict and clear laws.
List of Works Cited
Forester, Tom, and Perry Morrison. Computer Ethics. 2nd ed.Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1997. (1) Pg.7
(2) Ibid. Pg.23
(3) Ibid. Pg.140
(4) Ibid. Pg.163
(5) Ibid. Pg.187
(6) Ibid. Pg.30